Efforts are underway to ensure that state funding to repair the Gardner Bridge in the Briarwood section of Bourne will not be lost with the start of the new fiscal year.
Concerns were raised by town archivist Jean Campbell, a resident of Briarwood. In an email to members of the Bourne board of selectmen, Ms. Campbell raised the prospect that $200,000 included in the current state budget for repairs to the bridge might not make it into the new budget.
“Massachusetts agreed to give the town money for the bridge during this year,” she said. “It was given for one purpose only, the Gardner bridge, and if the work isn’t done this year, the money returns to the commonwealth’s coffers.”
The Town of Bourne was made aware in February 2019 that the bridge was unsafe. An inspection was done December 29, 2018, by the Massachusetts Coastal Railroad, which uses the tracks that run beneath the bridge. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation conducted its own inspection on January 26, 2019, and recommended the bridge be closed immediately to vehicular traffic.
Bourne town officials ordered the bridge closed to all vehicular traffic in early March 2019. Pedestrians and bicyclists can use the bridge. Cars driven by residents and emergency vehicles have had to use an access point on private property that crosses the tracks to reach the Briarwood neighborhood.
In her email, Ms. Campbell told the selectmen that the Briarwood neighborhood is not just a summer getaway. Four of the seven homeowners who live there, she said, are full-time Bourne residents. The owners of two other houses are preparing to live there full-time upon retirement, she said.
“Therefore, it has been a hardship for us to have had our road closed this long,” she said.
Ms. Campbell’s concerns were conveyed to Town Administrator Anthony E. Schiavi, who responded that he had reached out to state Representative David T. Vieira (R-Falmouth). Rep. Vieira replied that he had submitted an amendment to the proposed state budget that would allow the $200,000 funding to carry over into Fiscal Year 2021.
“He will let me know when that is approved, and we can work to make some progress in overcoming the shortfalls that exist in the overall plan to get this bridge repaired and back open again for the residents,” Mr. Schiavi said.
In January Rep. Vieira informed town officials that the state had earmarked $200,000 for emergency repairs to the bridge. However, repair work has been held up over questions about ownership of the bridge.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has argued that the residents of Briarwood are the owners of the bridge and bear the responsibility for it. Ms. Campbell has disputed that and said her research shows the bridge belongs to MassDOT.
The state has asked that the Town of Bourne enter into an agreement that any repair costs beyond the $200,000 already earmarked be paid by the town. Town officials have been unwilling to agree to that stipulation until the question of bridge ownership has been resolved.